What does your family look like, I wonder? You might be partnered or single, blended or firmly separated. You might have one child or several, and maybe you’ve got shared care with extra children some days of the week.
I find this whole family dynamics area fascinating. Because, see, even if you came from a family of mum-dad-boy-girl and you now have a family of mum-dad-boy-girl, you know in your heart that these are two different units with different relationships. That’s because you’re flawsome and real, and you all bring your own hopes, dreams and personalities to the table.
Did I say table? Why yes! This is an UnYucky mindset post and at the end there’s a little activity for you to do, but before that let me tell you about me (me, me, meee!)
I’m an overly-responsible-eldest-daughter with two younger brothers. My husband is an only child of a single mother. We have three children together, although for four and a bit years we had just one, then overnight made the leap to being outnumbered by adding twins.
Our personally flawsome blend of families past and present means that we like to think we know a thing or two about how the number and order of your siblings – if any – affects your view on the world.
My middle brother is one of my best friends, but it wasn’t always so. As children I found him SO annoying. I mean, really: he read comics when he should have been reading books, and he genuinely enjoyed our mum’s disgusting watery pumpkin which meant she kept serving it up. Gross.
However, as adults we have come to value a relationship we have that just can’t be found with other people. No one on the planet apart from us, for instance, will ever understand how insane our parents were. It’s a conversation that only the two of us can ever have and I’m forever grateful for that.
I have pointed it out to my warring children too, don’t we all?
One day you’ll be glad you have a [brother/sister] so you can remind each other just how awful your childhoods were.
Still, as a kid and even as an adult there are days when you really might not be glad of one sibling or another, or of your parents or partner either. That’s ok. You’re flawsome, honey, and that’s way better than being perfect.
Coming back to the UnYucky mindset, the number of children and adults in a family has a big impact on how family meals work at your place. There are many ways to think about this from a psychological angle, but today I just want you to look at the numbers.
Look at my beautiful chart here.
Family relationships chart. Image credit: Bec Lloyd, UnYucky
Back in your BC days, before baby made three, you had one lovely relationship to attend to between you and your partner and I bet if you’re honest there were times when that seemed overwhelming.
Then along came baby and the addition of one extra person meant that you zoomed up from one relationship in the family, to three. There’s still the one between you and your partner, but now you each have a relationship with bubs too, and those three connections all need to be nurtured.
Many people think it’s easier for those families with just one child, but is it? As my husband and others can attest, being an only child means all the focus is on you, even when you don’t have ‘pushy’ parents. And as the parent of an only child you step up big time as the lead entertainment and companion, as well as all your parent-y roles.
It’s no picnic with two, three or more children, either, of course. The more children (and adults) in a family, the more interpersonal relationships exist. Adding one more child to make a family of four doesn’t just add one more relationship, it adds three. That’s a bustle of six relationships going on in your typical four person family.
Now remember how three became the new two for a while in the heady baby bonus days? Say you follow the former Treasurer’s advice and have one for mum, one for dad, and one for the nation, and your family of five will zing along to 10 sets of relationships. Every human in a five-person family has an immediate relationship with four other people.
I’m not a maths brain but if you are, you’re already way ahead of me on the progressions. I can count 29 relationships in my friend Amelia’s family of two parents and six children and their chart looks like geometric art!
What Amelia’s family looks like. Image credit: Saatchi Art, artist Simon Wilson
Your UnYucky mindset action is this: dinner time is often a parents vs kids situation, no matter how many you have. That can make it feel like there are just two parties with a single relationship – but even in a three person family we know there will be more than one relationship dynamic at work. So, I want you to take a pen and paper, or a drawing app on your phone, and do a chart like the ones I’ve shared for your own family. If you’ve got a kid or kids hanging about, get them to help you or to draw their own chart so they can see how it works too. Make sure you don’t forget the relationships between each of the children too!
And your UnYucky mindset message is this: dinner time is often your only chance in the day to sit together as a family. When you become more aware of the complexity of the connections within your family, you become more observant about the interactions, and perhaps appreciate more the gorgeous, flawsome differences that every single child and adult brings to your table. It’s only one way of looking at your dinnertime dynamics, but it’s a fun one!